SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between the San Antonio Business Journal and KSAT.
Whataburger is rolling out a new look for its restaurants and has given the Business Journal an exclusive look into its new concept and first remodeled restaurant in San Antonio.
The San Antonio-based burger chain’s new stores will feature an updated design with refreshed interiors and exteriors, beginning with the Bellmead location north of Waco, which is under construction. The prototypes range in size from less than 3,000 square feet to more than 4,400 square feet.
“There’s a lot of things that people hold sacred, if you will, about our brand,” said James Turcotte, senior vice president of real estate for Whataburger. “That’s the iconic A-frame, the visuals, our branding, the linkage to our past. We really tried to blend those concepts in the prototype.”
This design will also be reflected in remodels to its existing buildings. Its first prototype for the remodels, reflecting what Whataburger plans to do across the country, is its Zarzamora Street location.
Turcotte said Whataburger’s service model is more like a diner, cooking to order virtually every other order at some locations, and with that comes challenges in maintaining efficiency and speed of service. The store refresh comes after the chain studied its equipment, drive-thru capacities and flows to understand where its challenges were to become more efficient.
One of those challenges was fryer capacity, which has been increased in the new models. The production line was also altered to reduce employee movement in the kitchen.
The new store designs have been in progress for about a year and a half to two years, Turcotte said. The remodel, however, has had a much faster timeline of about six months. He said that after Chicago-based private equity fund BDT Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in the company last summer, the company decided it needed to determine what it was going to do to modernize its aging architecture.
“I know a lot of people love them, but quite honestly they can be a challenge for our family members to work in,” Turcotte said of the older restaurants. “Those stores were not designed to do the level of business they do now.”
Turcotte said the chain has made an effort to make its new store models as low-impact on the environment as possible, using renewable resources when possible, LED lighting and the most efficient equipment possible for 24-hour use.